The Italian Preposition 'Da'

Learn how the preposition 'da' is commonly used

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The Italian simple preposition da is one of the most ubiquitous, with many meanings and uses. Among them, in their English translation, are "from," "since," "at," "for," "to," and "as."

But don't let the list intimidate you: As you get used to seeing da here and there, most of its uses will begin to make sense and incorporate naturally into your new language.

Da's Common Uses

Here are the most common ways da is used in Italian.

Basic 'From'

In its most basic meaning, da means "from": a versatile "from" like in English.

  • Quando esci dal negozio, gira a sinistra. When you come out from the store, turn left.
  • Non voglio niente da lui. I don't want anything from him.
  • Ho preso il libro dalla biblioteca. I got the book from the library.
  • Tornando da Milano, ho perso il treno. Returning from Milan, I missed the train.
  • È tornato dalle vacanze. He’s back from vacation.
  • Sono scesi dal treno. They got off (from) the train.

Still with the "from" sense, da indicates separation or distinction from something or someone:

  • I Pirenei dividono la Spagna dalla Francia. The Pyrenees divide Spain from France.
  • Qui, le mele sono divise dalle pere. Here, the apples are separated from the pears.
  • Dividiamo i bambine dalle bambine. Let's divide the boys from the girls.

Source or Provenance

Da is used to indicate provenance or origin.

  • Vengo da Torino. I come/am from Torino.
  • Patrizia viene da un paesino in Toscana. Patrizia comes/is from a little town in Tuscany.
  • Suo marito viene da una famiglia agiata. Her husband comes/is from a wealthy family.

With the name of a city, you will find this often with surnames of famous artists: Francesca da Rimini; Leonardo da Vinci; Antonello da Messina.

Through

Still with meaning of "from," da can indicate passage through something, or movement through a particular point:

  • Sono fuggiti dall'uscita di servizio. They escaped through the service exit.
  • Scappiamo dalla finestra. Let's escape through the window.
  • Il topo è passato dal buco. The mouse came through the hole.

Span: From...To

Together with the preposition a, da means "from...to," both in matters of time and in matters of space:

  • Lavoro dalla mattina alla sera. I work from the morning until the evening.
  • Il negozio è aperto da martedì a sabato. The store is open from Tuesday to Saturday.
  • L'uomo ha camminato da lì a qui e poi è caduto per terra. The man walked from there to here and then he fell on the ground.
  • Giovanni si è trasferito da Roma a Firenze. Giovanni moved from Florence to Rome.
  • Si possono iscrivere ragazzi dai 15 at 25 anni. Boys from 15 to 25 can enroll.
  • Il museo è aperto dalle 9.00 alle 12.00. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Time: Since, How Long

Concerning time, da is used to mean "since," or "in/for" a period of time:

  • Non lo vedevo da molti anni. I had not seen him in/for years.
  • Da quando hai smesso di fumare? Since when did you stop smoking?
  • Da allora. non ci siamo incontrati. Since then, we have not met.

With a verb in the present tense, it means the action reaches into today, or the situation continues into the present.

  • Leggo questa rivista da molto tempo. I've been reading this magazine for a long time.
  • Non lo vedo da molti anni. I haven’t seen him in years.
  • Non ci parliamo da mesi. We haven't spoken to each other in months.

When

Still concerning time, da is used to define a period of time. You use it much with the imperfetto indicativo for a phase or moment of life:

  • Da bambino abitavo dal nonno. As a child (when I was a child) I lived at grandfather's house.
  • Da ragazzi andavamo sempre a pescare. As kids, we always went fishing.
  • Ti ho conosciuto da grande. I met you as (when I was) an adult.
  • Da studente mangiavo alla mensa. As (when I was) a student, I ate in the cafeteria.

At Someone's House

Da means "at the house of" or "at the place of"; that includes a place of business:

  • Vado da mio fratello. I'm going to my brother's (place).
  • Vado da Filippo. I'm going to Filippo's house.
  • Ho lasciato la macchina da Luisa. I left the car at Luisa's.
  • Non voglio tornare dagli zii. I don't want to go back to aunt and uncle's place.
  • Vado dal macellaio. I am going to the butcher's (store).
  • Ti aspetto dall'avvocato. I’ll wait for you at the lawyer’s office.

Worth, Value

Da is used to mean "worth":

  • Vorrei un francobollo da un euro. I would like a 1-euro stamp.
  • Sono scarpe da poco; le posso anche rovinare. They are shoes worth little: I can even ruin them.
  • Ha una macchina da centomila euro. He has a car worth 100,000 euros.

Cause or Reason

Da can indicate the reason for something ("from" as source of something, particularly an emotional response):

  • Piangeva dalla gioia. He was crying from/of joy
  • Dalla noia, mi sono addormentata. From the boredom, I fell asleep.
  • Si è messo a urlare dalla rabbia. He started yelling from/out of anger.
  • Muoio dalla curiosità. I am dying from/of curiosity.

Descriptive

Da can be used to describe a trait, good or bad, mostly when the trait is defining:

  • Una ragazza dagli occhi azzurri: a blue-eyed girl
  • Un uomo dal cuore d'oro: a man with a heart of gold
  • Un uomo dallo spirito povero: a man with a poor spirit

Purpose: 'To' or 'For'

Within some composite nouns, da can indicate the purpose of an object: what it is for, or fit for.

  • Carte da gioco: playing cards (cards for playing)
  • Costume da bagno: swimsuit (suit for swimming)
  • Sala da pranzo: dining room (room for dining)
  • Spazzolino da denti: toothbrush (brush for teeth)
  • Spazzola da capelli: hairbrush (brush for hair)
  • Abito da sera: evening gown (gown for the evening)

In that regard, da is sometimes used with a verb to mean "to" (as purpose, even sometimes when the purpose might be clear)::

  • Dammi un libro da leggere. Give me a book to read.
  • Mi compri un vestito da mettere per la festa? Would you buy me a dress to wear for the party?
  • Che cosa vuoi da bere? What do you want to drink?
  • Mi dai un foglio per scrivere? Would you give me a piece of paper to write on?

Da Preceding an Infinitive

Followed by a verb in the infinitive, the preposition da means "to":

  • Ho una fame da morire. I’m starving (I have hunger to die).
  • Fa un caldo da impazzire. It’s so hot (it is hot to go crazy).
  • Non c'è niente da fare. There is nothing to do.
  • Luigina ha sempre molto da dire. Luigina always has much to say.
  • Non c'è tempo da perdere. There is no time to waste.
  • È una situazione da non credere. It is a situation to not be believed.

Verbs That Demand Da

There are many verbs in Italian that demand to be followed by certain prepositions. Some, whether intransitive or in intransitive uses, sometimes can demand da. Considering the meaning "from," among them are, logically, verbs of movement; but also others:

  • Andare da: to go from
  • Venire da: to come from
  • Tornare da: to return from
  • Camminare da: to walk from
  • Partire da: to leave from
  • A partire da: starting from
  • Saltare da: to jump from
  • Scendere da: to get off from
  • A cominciare da: to start from
  • Iniziare da: to start from
  • A giudicare da: to judge from/based on
  • Riconoscere da: to recognize from
  • Dipendere da: to depend on
  • Prendere da: to take from
  • Pretendere da: to expect from
  • A prescindere da: setting aside/excluding

For example:

  • Giudicando dal suo umore, non credo l'esame sia andato bene. Judging from his mood, I don't think that exam went well.
  • Ho riconosciuto Giacomo dal passo. I recognized Giacomo from his gait/walk.
  • Non voglio dipendere da te. I don't want to depend on you.

With Some Verbs, Da as 'As'

With some verbs, da means "as" or "like" something (to act as, treat as, serve as, behave as):

  • Luca ha agito da galantuomo. Luca acted like/as a gentleman
  • Grazie per avermi trattato da amico. Thank you for having treated me as a friend.
  • Mi ha fatto da padre tutta la vita. He acted as father to me all my life.
  • Fungo da presidente provvisoriamente. I am serving/acting as president temporarily.
  • Si comporta da bullo. He behaves like a bully.

Passive 'By'

In passive verbal constructions, da precedes the agent, meaning "by whom" the action was carried out:

  • I tavoli sono stati apparecchiati dai camerieri. The tables were set by the waiters.
  • Il panino è stato mangiato dal cane. The sandwich was eaten by the dog.
  • Ho visto un palazzo disegnato da Brunelleschi. I saw a building designed by Brunelleschi.

Phrases Using Da

The preposition da forms many adverbial and prepositional phrases:

  • Da parte di: on (someone's) part
  • Dal canto (di): from (someone's) point of view
  • Fuori da: outside of
  • Di qua da: on this side of
  • Di là da: on the other side of/beyond
  • Da vicino: un close
  • Da lontano: from afar
  • Da capo: from the top
  • Da parte: aside
  • Da meno: worth less/at lower cost
  • Dappertutto: everywhere

Prepositional Articles With Da

As you have noticed in many of the sentences above, when followed by a definite article, da and article combine to create what are called preposizioni articolate or prepositional articles:

da + il dal
da + lo dallo (dall')
da + la dalla (dall')
da + i dai
da + gli  dagli
da + le dalle